How to Say

Safia Elhillo

in the divorce i separate to two piles books: english love songs: arabic
my angers my schooling my long repeating name english english arabic

i am someone’s daughter but i am american born it shows in my short memory
my ahistoric glamour my clumsy tongue when i forget the word for [ ] in arabic

i sleep unbroken dark hours on airplanes home & dream i’ve missed my
connecting flight i dream a new & fluent mouth full of gauzy swathes of arabic

i dream my alternate selves each with a face borrowed from photographs of
the girl who became my grandmother brows & body rounded & cursive like arabic

but wake to the usual borderlands i crowd shining slivers of english to my mouth
iris crocus inlet heron how dare i love a word without knowing it in arabic

& what even is translation is immigration without irony safia
means pure all my life it’s been true even in my clouded arabic

Last updated September 27, 2022